On August 11th 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the United State turned down two petitions. One was from the governors of Rhode Island and Washington, and the other from a resident of New Mexico, requesting that marijuana be removed from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
In the United States, some states have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational purposes. However, these states do so in clear violation of federal law. This is because drugs on Schedule 1 of the CSA list include heroin, LSD, marijuana and others. These drugs are deemed to have no medical use. Therefore, possessing them is illegal under the country’s federal law.
However, advocates of the plant have argued in the past, the strong medical benefits and that many American citizens want it legalized. Recently, a new poll by the American research company, Gallup Incorporated revealed that the percentage of American adults who smoke marijuana has nearly doubled in three years. According to the Gallup poll published on August 8th, 2016, among America’s adults who participated in the survey, one in eight – representing 13% of the population of the respondents used in the poll – reported current marijuana use. In 2013, the same Gallup poll revealed that 7% of American adults smoke marijuana. This means the figure nearly doubled within the last three years, since the first study was conducted.
According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health in the United States, Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the country. Also, a 2015 report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that the rate of current marijuana use in the United States had risen from 4.1% in 2001-02 to 9.5% in 2012-13.
Marijuana advocates believe the majority of the American population now have favorable thought on marijuana. Five states, including California, Massachusetts, Maine, Arizona and Nevada, are voting on marijuana legalization this November.
According to The New York Times, over the years in the United States, Congress and attorneys generally have deferred to the expertise of the DEA, which is the part of the Justice Department enforcing the country’s drug laws.
This power given to the DEA has given the agency an extensive control over drug policy making. The DEA is said to dictate who gets to grow marijuana for research in the United States. For example, some few selected scholars are allowed to grow and study the plant without any funding. It is said since 1968, the University of Mississippi has been the only institution allowed to grow the plant for research in the country. This has severely limited research on the plant. Even the findings of the few studies done on the plant have been arrogantly rejected by DEA officials, according to marijuana advocates.
The DEA, in the past, has strongly resisted efforts by scientists, state officials and federal lawmakers to reclassify marijuana. They’ve rejected or refused to acknowledge evidence that marijuana is not nearly as harmful as federal law treats it.
In the DEA’s report turning down the petitions to remove the plant from Schedule 1 of the CSA, it stated that the reason the agency said marijuana has no currently accepted medical use is because the plant’s chemistry is not known and reproducible, and that there are no adequate safety studies, well-controlled studies proving efficacy, as well as lack of scientific evidence on the plant.
The report said further that there is no evidence where a consensus among qualified experts suggests that marijuana is safe and effective for use in treating a specific or recognized disorder.
“At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy,” the DEA said in the report turning down the petitions.
Meanwhile, following this report by the DEA, the former Democratic Party nominee hopeful, Bernie Sanders has said that the federal law prohibiting the plant should be abolished. In a Facebook post, the Vermont Independent Senator said: “In my view, the time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana. States should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern the sale of alcohol and tobacco.”
The New York Times, also in its editorial, lashed out to the DEA for unfairly treating marijuana. The Times urged the agency to take immediate steps to see to the end of federal prohibition of the plant.
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